Return to Articles

. . .and. . .

by Bill Lasarow

There is actually nothing else in the art world like the annual College Art Association (CAA) Conference. Over the course of its nearly century of existence CAA has evolved into the one institution that draws together artists, art historians, curators, and art administrators affiliated with the American academic community. To think of the dozens of papers and panel sessions as an intellectual cafeteria is a vast understatement. It represents the single best opportunity to assess the range and state of American art, albeit from an academic rather than a commercial perspective. No, this is not an art fair!

The February 10-13th gathering is the first CAA Conference in Los Angeles in over a decade--it switches cities and coasts each year, like the Super Bowl, though not restricting itself to the sun belt. The primary venue moves this year from a hotel setting into the roomier L.A. Convention Center, a clue to the continuing growth in attendance. It is designed with CAA members in mind, but non-affiliates may register and attend at a slightly higher price. Bear in mind that you don’t pay for individual events--one fee covers all. CAA pre-registered only through December, so you’ll have to register and pay at the “door” to the tune of $150 (CAA members) or $185 (non-members).

Honoree Samella Lewis at home.

The Career Placement Service must be noted, though not because the general audience would have any interest in it--it draws mainly recent University graduates who are immersed in the always competitive job search process. But it is a very visible, perhaps even effective, component of CAA that helps insure substantial attendence by new, younger constituants every year. It helps explain the sheer intensity of the bustle that you can count on, as well as the sheer vitality. New members of the academic art world are attracted and begin to circulate into the system every year, and they really do come from all sections of the country. There is not a stuffy, restrictive, clubby atmosphere at these conferences.

A local host committee, this year co-chaired by CalArts President Steven Lavine, and Dean of USC’s School of Fine Arts Ruth Weisberg (who is a former President of CAA as well; her latest work is also on exhibit at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts), also arranges for a raft of special events: mainly tours and receptions to museums, gallery districts, and public art and architectural landmarks.

The too-numerous-to-enumerate sessions are organized around--but not limited to--the dual themes of “From Another Place: Difference, Encounter, Acculturation, Identity, Resistance” (Art History), and “Ring of Fire”, addressing cultural alienation and otherness (Studio Art).

The L.A. Convention Center is located in the Downtown area at 1201 S. Figueroa St. For Conference information and registration contact the CAA office in New York, (212) 691-1051, fax (212) 627-2381, or e-mail at For information about special events the host committee contact is Arzu Arda Kosar, (213) 740-2787, fax (213) 740-8937, or e-mail at

. . .and. . .

Two among this year's
six WCA honoree's--

Judy Chicago



Linda Frye Burnham

It would be easy to regard the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) conference as an adjunct affair, piggybacking on the front end (running February7-11) of CAA. But embodied in the far smaller conference is the relatively settled energy of the feminist art movement. By “settled” I hardly mean “sedate,” but rather that the contributions of a significant number of women to the art world are so clearly measurable by historical standards that they may be ignored at the peril of intellectual or institutional integrity.

Reviewing the lineup of honorees, keynote speakers, and programs that will be presented during the course of the week is more than just an exercise in planning. A generational shift is apparent in both names and content. June Wayne, for example, will deliver the opening address; Coco Fusco closes it. Panel and workshop topics deal with familiar feminist fare such as the influence of Neolithic Goddess culture, and an analysis of Judy Chicago’s seminal Dinner Party. But others examine how artists may collaborate with art therapists, and how the World Wide Web may be used to further one’s art career. It all implies that the feminist vision is a fusion of the restless energy to examine new ways with a powerful instinct to adapt and contribute.

This is reflected in some of the mulitfaceted career descriptions among the six Outstanding Women Artist Award honorees--Judy Baca, Linda Frye Burnham, Judy Chicago, E.J. Montgomery, Arlene Raven, and Barbara T. Smith. All but Raven (an art historian) have made substantial contributions as artists, yes, but without exception they are social activists who have invested significant effort to improve the condition of women and society.

The conference’s home base will be the Hyatt Regency Hotel (711 S. Hope St. in Downtown L.A.), but for those who want to get out and about there will be the usual tour groups, as well as two large group exhibitions at the Brewery and Galeria Sister Karen Boccaleo (both Downtown). These represent a conscious effort to recognize the current crop and multi-ethnic range of female artistic talent.

For conference details and registration, call Southern California WCA’s Myra Gantman at (818) 501-3277, or visit their Web site at